Roadkill by Joseph D’Lacey is the latest This Is Horror chapbook, although this story is only loosely horror, being a sort of existential Mad Max. Although there’s plenty of back-story, the entire ‘now’ of the plot takes place over just 100 seconds; the central character is involved in a race in a presumably post-apocalyptic world, pushing a stripped-down vehicle as fast as it will go towards The Edge – possibly transcendence, possibly nothingness. The physical aspects of this race are expertly evoked – the sounds of the engines, the heat of the metal against the driver’s bare skin – but it’s clear there’s more at stake here than a mere race. The world-view and goals of the character seem as stripped back of everything inessential as the cars they are racing… But the strange visions of a fox the narrator sees as he races, and the interconnection he feels with his opponent, suggest something larger, something more expansive to life than simply carrying on the same road as fast as you can...
In the midst of all this, the fact that D’Lacey manages any kind of world-building at all is impressive, although even in the flashback sections the reader sees only glimpses of the wider world, as if it were all whipping by at 180mph… It’s clear from these glimpses that the drivers and the cars they drive represent something fundamental to society as a whole; the race itself has something of a ritualistic air about it. Occasionally I wished the world was fleshed out slightly bit more, and it will be interesting to see if D’Lacey returns to it in any future works. Tight, taut prose keeps the story as focussed and single-minded as it’s protagonists. An interesting, original story from D’Lacey, and one I enjoyed reading and rereading.
100 seconds… 180mph… and a whole philosophy of life. Not bad for a short novella.
(Available on Kindle)